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2019, the Year of the Pig. Feel better, cope better and live it better with acupuncture.

I have lost track of the number of times I have been asked 'what acupuncture can do?', 'is it effective for this?', 'can it cure that?' Scientific evidence recognises that acupuncture is effective as a treatment for both acute and chronic pain, but patients are still surprised when a long-term pain disappears. What intrigues people even more though is when other conditions like IBS, reflux, menstrual problems, asthma and eczema also improve. A regular acupuncture habit also brings much appreciated improvements in sleep, digestion, mood and improves the immune system to the point that so many people opt to continue coming for regular monthly or seasonal acupuncture long after their initial problem has resolved. Acupuncture is so much more than a non-drug based painkiller; in my opinion it is good for everyone and is one of the best things you can take up if you want to improve your health and wellness over the long term.

I am bound to say that, I am an acupuncturist – but to explain why it is so good for you I need to explain how it was used in ancient times. The origins of acupuncture go back to a time when serious illness or injury would so often be fatal, the primary goal of the acupuncturist was to maintain and improve health of the essential workforce. If the farmworkers or soldiers were taken ill, the acupuncturist would probably be ‘replaced’.

The diagnostic techniques used by acupuncturists pick up subtle changes in the body which can indicate where the overall balance of health is being compromised. I take the pulses with a method which assesses twelve different pulse positions, six on each wrist which indicate to me which aspects of the system may be out of kilter; I may look at the tongue to see whether there are colour changes, texture changes or shape changes indicating an internal imbalance; I notice subtle differences in body temperature between one part of the body and another which can indicate areas of deficiency. I use acupuncture needles, cupping, gua sha or moxa to rebalance the system; if appropriate I make dietary or lifestyle suggestions to help strengthen the benefits of the acupuncture.

Regular acupuncture can produce significant benefits over the longer term, benefits such as better sleep, easier digestion, less of a tendency to flare with inflammation and a stronger immune system.

Our modern health system has a very different approach to health; according to the NHS website, someone’s health status is usually ‘determined by their ability to carry out everyday activities and how free they are from pain’ (no wonder there is such a tendency to prescribe long-term pain relief medication which masks pain but causes long-term damage to the stomach, liver and kidneys). Contrast this with the World Health Organisation’s definition of health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. This definition is much closer to the ancient Chinese view of health which understands how our health is so strongly affected by our relationships, our living environment, and our food and lifestyle habits.

With that last sentence in mind, here are a few ideas for improving your health:

· Eat seasonal, locally produced food whenever possible. Locally grown, seasonally appropriate food contains micronutrients and trace compounds that help our internal climate to adjust to the external climate.

· Learn to live in the moment, tear yourself away from regrets about the past or worries about the future. Live well now.

· Be kind to yourself, talk to yourself with the same voice you would use to a close friend or family member. None of us thrive when we live in a constant stream of criticism so don’t let that be the tone of your internal dialogue.

· Try to include something in your life that gives you joy and brings a sense of inner peace. Think back to when you were a child, what activities would absorb you, what were you naturally drawn to before life got in the way? If you enjoyed playing in nature, see what local conservation projects are looking for volunteers; if you enjoyed reading, make time in your schedule to curl up with a good book on a regular basis; if you spent hours playing 'shop', you could look for a part-time job in a charity shop.

· If you are surviving rather than thriving, think about booking a course of acupuncture treatments to see for yourself what a difference it can make to your life.

Kind regards

Alexandra O’Connor Holicity Health, (Burnham on Crouch & Danbury) 01621 786600 / 01245 226007 www.holicity.co.uk